When I heard the news that Park Geun-hye – daughter of the late Park Chung Hee – won the latest presidential elections in South Korea, the first thought that came to my mind was “yet another Asian women keeping her political dynasty alive?”
Benazir Bhutto. Sonia Gandhi. Aung San Suu Kyi. Yingluck Shinawatra. And now Park Geun-hye. What they all have in common is their familial connections to power. They are all widows, daughters, or sisters who inherited the political mantle from their male family members. While it is remarkable that Asia as a region has had more women heads of states than any other place in the world, Asia (from Japan to India to Thailand) is not light-years ahead in terms of gender equality overall.
This week Forbes released “The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women.” Take a look.
Flipping through their faces compels awe. From Myanamar’s pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi to Jill Abramson, Executive Editor of the New York Times, they all demand inspiration.
Portraits of the political pioneers German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Thailand’s Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, are side-by-side with their private sector colleagues: COO of Facebook Sheryl Sandberg, entrepreneur and TV personality Oprah Winfrey, and CEO of PepsiCo Indra Nooyi, to name a few.
There is power in each one of them, all leaders in their fields and role models for the next generation. There is sheer awesomeness in them together.
Last night I watched a fascinating documentary about Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the first woman elected president in Africa. “Iron Ladies of Liberia” follows President Sirleaf’s first year in office as she tries to steer her country through the challenges of post-war reconstruction and heavy national debt. The film strikes a good balance between inspiration and realism as she contends with corruption, land disputes, and political challenges. The film left me wanting to know more about Liberia’s other “iron ladies”–in particular the women who kept commerce and the economy going while the men were fighting. Liberian women took many risks to shoulder the economy and feed families during that time, and will be a key part of Liberia’s economic future. That’s a story waiting to be told. Watch the preview of “Iron Ladies of Liberia” here.